Headlines from First Thoughts

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Strangers Among Us

What is the Baptist position on immigration? I'm not sure there is one. I do know that as long as America has been a nation of immigrants, those who are already here have spent a good deal of time and energy debating who else should be allowed into the country.

Because Jesus had an affinity for strangers, Baptists do too. As we deal with immigration nationally, here are some guiding principles for thinking about these newcomers locally.

1.) The best thing we can offer immigrants is the love of Christ. The first step to empowering someone to be a fully functioning member of society is to invite them to a relationship with Christ. No matter how someone arrived in our country, we are to be witnesses, in Judea, Samaria, and even when the uttermost parts of the earth come to us. We're attempting to do that through our Latino church locally.

2.) New residents in the states need holistic compassion. It's not enough to pray with someone and send them out the door. We need to be Christ's agents in transforming relationships. One woman we have ministered to at First Baptist Knoxville was undocumented and needed a heart valve replacement. We visited her in the hospital, helped her find resources to pay for the surgery, and have cared for her through her Spanish-speaking Sunday School class. It's been a team effort among staff, laypeople, and concerned citizens. She's back on Wednesday evenings learning English and active on Sunday mornings in Bible study.

3.) Education is the key to a deeper relationship with Christ and society. When someone receives and education, they can tap into resources never thought possible. Through ESOL, Sunday School, and other programs, we can educate immigrants and share with them the gift of knowledge.

As we debate immigration nationally, don't miss out on the opportunities to live your faith personally.


Jama said...

When we read about them in the paper, they are immigrants. When we see them on the street, they are strangers with needs. When we talk to them and learn their names, they become friends. When we worship together, we become brothers and sisters in Christ. Then it becomes hard to understand why there is a debate. Why would we want to leave our brothers and sisters out in the cold?

dan said...

I agree with the points you make, and hope that the ongoing political controversy over this issue doesn't obscure our obligations as Christians to show Christ's love to everyone in need, regardlesss of legal status.

However, I think we need to start asking ourselves some tough questions about our addiction to the services and products of a low wage sector of our economy. The issue of whether or not a "guest worker" program is a form of amnesty does not concern me; however, I am concerned that any such program will only give legal status to a 21st Century form of indentured servitude. As Christians, shouldn't we be concerned about the side effects of a 99 cent hamburger and cheap lettuce economy?

Daniel Merriman

McBetty said...

A friend in Illinois has this verse at the bottom of all his current messages. It reflects on your First Impressions column and this blog entry. Keep on writin' .... and thanks!

Leviticus 19:33-34
"When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself."

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